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The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

The King's Curse

by Philippa Gregory

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I have enjoyed the whole series, but this was the best yet. The portrayal of Henry VIII's psychology is brilliantly done, and the developing sense of paranoia and menace is chilling. Some years ago I read Simon Sebag Montefiore's 'The Court of the Red Czar'. Reading 'The King's Curse' brought back the experience of reading that brilliantly written but deeply upsetting book, and the parallels with Stalin became stronger page by page. Some have complained of the abruptness of the book's ending, but when written in the first person how else could it have ended? This simply brought home to me the sheer waste of human life and energy. ( )
  ChrisSterry | Apr 14, 2015 |
I didn't realize there was going to be a sixth book in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series, about the royal women of the War of the Roses. This book is about Margaret Pole, a first cousin of Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and the subject of the fifth book in the series. The White Princess. Margaret Beaufort, Henry's mother and the subject of the second book in the series, The Red Queen, is also a character in this book.

Despite its length (597 pages in print), and Gregory's ongoing problems with frequent and unnecessary repetition of the full names and titles of characters in conversations (which would not happen in real life), as well as "She shrugs" and "He nods" and variations thereof, I liked this book better than the last two in the series. Margaret Pole is much more interesting than either Elizabeth of York or Anne Neville (The Kingmaker's Daughter, book four), who were rather passive characters.

Because Margaret Pole lived such a long life (1473-1541), her life also intersects with Henry VIII and his first three wives. She's especially loyal to Catherine of Aragon and her daughter, Mary Tudor. Margaret is also a devout Catholic who, along with her three surviving sons, is upset with Henry VIII for his persecution of the Church. Along with the fact she has royal blood and her sons are potential rivals for the throne, Margaret has more than enough in her life to arouse the suspicions of the king. She manages to do so, more or less, for her first 65 years.

Gregory's four-page author's note at the end of the book explains some suppositions for her fiction and purports an interesting theory about Henry VIII's degeneration and the loss of so many Tudor babies. I was also surprised to learn that Margaret Pole was beatified as a martyr for the Catholic Church.

The print version also includes an eight-page bibliography of five-plus pages, two maps, and two family trees, one at the book's beginning dated 1499 (where the story begins) and another at the end dated 1541 (when the story ends). I wish the latter had gone ahead and included post 1541 death dates for those still alive when Margaret was executed. I would have liked to have known how long her three surviving children lived beyond her death, without having to look them up.

The audiobook doesn't have the bibliography, maps, or charts, although they could have been easily added as a PDF file. The story is told in first-person by Margaret, and is read by South African actress and audiobook veteran Bianca Amato, who also does an excellent job creating a voice for Margaret that ages as she does.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library. This review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Dec 7, 2014 |
This was a good book but not my favorite of hers. I did like how she showed King Henry as being a bit of a spoiled brat. Being real people it was a little hard to really like any of the characters. They had to be hard people but it is hard to read about. ( )
  Virginia51 | Nov 29, 2014 |
This was an interesting book. Seeing Henry VIII's deterioration from the point of view of his cousin who has known him since he was born really gave you a new perspective. I really like Margaret Pole, but I disliked how she kept saying she didn't know about the curse. It was like an echo to Elizabeth of York in The White Princess that was rather annoying. I'm really sad the series about the Plantagenets is over because I really liked reading about this family (particularly about the three brothers of York). It'll be interesting to see what time period Philippa picks next. ( )
  rabidmunkee | Nov 7, 2014 |
The last book in the Cousin's War series and a very good way to end. Using Margaret Pole as her narrator created the opportunity forma somewhat wider view of this period. As she was Elizabeth of York's cousin and guardian to the young couple Catherine of Aragón and the Prince of Wales. Later lady in waiting to Queen Catherine. Royal in her own right she led a stressful life, tight roping her way between first Henry the seventh and then the whims of his infantile son when he became king.

It also provided the chance to see a different view of the conspiracies in play, and the reactions of the people working the land. In particular their hatred of Henry and his treatment of the monasteries. Though at one time loved, Henry of course became much hated but always feared.

Of course I knew how it all ended, nevertheless this book did capture and hold my interest, ably taking me back to this time period. ( )
  Beamis12 | Nov 7, 2014 |
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The riveting story of Margaret Pole, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, and was one of the few surviving members of the Plantagenet dynasty after the Wars of the Roses. Plantagenet, once carried proudly by Margaret like a crown upon her head, is now, at the end of the 15th century, the most dangerous name in England.… (more)

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